What you can expect
A chest X-ray is performed in your doctor’s office or the hospital, and a radiology technician conducts the actual test. The process for a chest X-ray is as follows:
- You’ll wear a medical gown and be asked to remove all jewelry and objects containing metal.
- The technician will use a lead apron or shield to cover areas that could be exposed to radiation but aren’t part of the area to be imaged.
- You’ll be asked to stand in front of the X-ray machine.
- While the X-ray is taken, you’ll be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds to keep the image from blurring.
Medical tests, including chest X-rays, shouldn’t be ordered unless they can provide information unavailable through simpler, safer methods. While the exposure to radiation (including X-rays) is worthy of concern, the amount of radiation exposure in a chest X-ray is minimal. A single chest X-ray exposes patients to about the same amount of radiation that they're exposed to in nature, with ultraviolet radiation (sun exposure) over the course of about 10 days.1 A few X-rays a year aren't believed to cause harm. However, if you’re pregnant, notify your doctor, as X-rays aren’t typically performed on pregnant patients because of the risk to the baby.